Michael J. Swart

August 17, 2010

Microsoft Connect From Our Point of View

Filed under: SQLServerPedia Syndication,Technical Articles — Tags: , — Michael J. Swart @ 12:00 pm

I first heard about Microsoft Connect in early 2008. I was at a conference and a speaker from Microsoft touted the benefits of the site.┬áIt’s a site that allows users to submit feedback on Microsoft Products (which include SQL Server of course). We were told that every issue on the site was taken very seriously and that stale or unhandled issues get escalated and are treated like a big deal. I remember feeling excited at having this direct line to Microsoft’s product teams.

Today Buck Woody (of Microsoft) posted another article pushing connect.microsoft.com. He’s had other posts on this topic before and thinks it’s a great thing.

Connect as Seen By Microsoft

And it is a great thing especially for Microsoft. They get great feedback:

  • They get bug reports which help improve quality of the released product tremendously.
  • They get suggestions which go into new features of the product. It helps get a sense of what users are really hoping to see.

Connect as Seen By Users

And it’s a great for users because we know we have a say in the product.

Except when we don’t.

There are too many issues where the submitter doesn’t know what Microsoft’s plans are with the issue.

Maybe here’s a reason. They’re hasn’t been a change to the database engine or Management Studio since 2008. And it looks like we’re about a year away from the next one. So any suggested features or fixes submitted for that time are still pending.

And that’s fine, but it means that Microsoft’s only feedback to us is inside the issue itself. Often an issue will have little or no feedback (349116, 361832) and then our perception that we have a direct line to Microsoft disappears.

But those are two isolated cases right? Yes and No. In one of my very first blog posts two years ago How useful is connect.microsoft.com, I took an arbitrary sample of issues. Today, two years later, I look at the same sample*, and I see that 41% still have an “active” status. I’ll repeat what I said in that post:

“If MS had a better track record than that, connect.microsoft.com would be seen as a real place to be heard. That would encourage even more feedback.”

It’s Not a Perfect System

Buck Woody says:

No, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s more than I’ve seen at most software vendors I deal with.

I agree with that. It is a lot better than other software vendors. Oracle is definitely behind in this respect. As far as I can tell their only feedback is their regular support desk. But all that means is that Microsoft is the leader in the race in which no one else seems to be running. And Microsoft could do even better.

What I’d Like to See Done

I don’t want to downplay the good work that Microsoft has done. When we’re told that “Microsoft really does look at these issues” I tend to believe it. I am confident that the SQL Server product teams are putting these features and fixes into the product as we speak**.

But Microsoft should tell us about it. Update the stale/active issues. Mark it as “not reproducible” or “we’ll consider it” or even “won’t fix” you won’t hurt our feelings. In fact we’ll feel better because we’ll feel listened to.

* The sample I took was issues submitted on the 1st and 2nd of May in 2008.

** Some evidence of product fixes via Todd McDermid.

6 Comments »

  1. I agree with you Michael – I think that MSFT could do a lot more with Connect to improve its effectiveness and perception of that effectiveness. There are at least two things standing in the way of that, though:
    1. Absolutely retarded bug submissions. In lots of cases, those seem to outnumber the good ones. And I’m not solely talking about the “point” of the submission – I’m mostly talking about how it’s filed, described, and written down. I don’t know what they can do with this – except for perhaps making the act of filing a bug much more complicated – that alone might weed out the submissions that have no thought put into them.
    2. It’s one of many “bug tracking” solutions Microsoft has. I’m sure that every product grouup has their own internal mechanism – probably more than one, at that. For instance, I’m dead certain that our submissions on Connect for SQL get copied over to other such systems and are “worked on” there. That’s why we don’t get (many) updates on Connect, and why we get a huge spate of them when the product team reaches (an assumed) milestone – they’re “going through the motions” to improve Connect’s perception by copying back the information from their internal system.
    Not great – but I do appreciate their effort in manually pushing back the updates on the issues to Connect. (Some of them, anyway, because I’m sure there are resolutions to others they don’t want us to know about because it would steal marketing thunder or unduly inform the “esteemed competition”.)

    Comment by Todd McDermid — August 17, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  2. Regarding #1 stupid submissions won’t get upvoted so maybe wading through the crap is worth it for MS (BTW Todd, aren’t you an expert in cleaning crap data for consumption ;-)

    For #2, I totally understand the marketing and business reasons that might go behind some of these decisions. I think they’re probably doing a great job. It’s just perception.

    One more interesting thing:
    For now it’s possible to read comments of system stored procedures. And many of these refer to bugs in their bug tracking system, for example see:
    exec sp_helptext ‘sp_helpindex’
    to see a mysterious reference to bug “shiloh_51196″

    Comment by Michael J. Swart — August 17, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  3. I’ve used Microsoft Connect before, mainly for Visual Studio/.NET Framework issues. My experience with it has been so poor that I don’t both reporting anything anymore. They often “can’t repoduce” an issue, even when it’s literally 1-2 lines of code. The more difficult ones, forget it. After walking them through even simple things, and they finally reproduce it, I’ve yet to see them actually fix it. In all cases, they say that won’t fix it, or will fix it in the next version (and they hadn’t). After spending 10′s of hours getting all the information together to help them reproduce issues (including submitting a video of it), and getting absolutely no results or fixes to issues that impact me every day, I’ve given up. Microsoft Connect and it’s team has been less than worthless to me, draining my time and resources for absolutely no benefit at all.

    Comment by Robert McKee — August 24, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  4. Sorry, I’ll even go one step further. Microsoft Connect itself was written by a team that doesn’t know how to properly HTML-encode things. Try submitting a comment that includes a valid HTML markup and watch as the site totally mangles it. Poor coding — that’s about par.

    Comment by Robert McKee — August 24, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  5. I understand what you’re saying. Microsoft Connect is a great idea with mediocre execution.

    Comment by Michael J. Swart — August 24, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  6. Completely agree with you Michael. The idea is great, but follow-up is one of the items that could be improved. More than once I’ve run into a reported bug which had been solved since it was entered in the system. And all that the comment from Microsoft says is “it’s fixed”. What I want to know at that point is: what do I need to do to fix it ON MY SYSTEM? Is there a hotfix, SP? They seem to forget that people also end up on that site when looking for a solution to an issue that they’re experiencing, not just to report them.

    Comment by Valentino Vranken — October 15, 2010 @ 7:05 am

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